Olympic D-Day for Bann boys

Banbridge District Sports Association Chairman Michael Watt presented the Sports Achievers of the Month for August to Banbridge Hockey Clubs' European Championships Bronze Medalists Matthew Bell and Eugene Magee �Edward Byrne Photography INBL1540-222EB
Banbridge District Sports Association Chairman Michael Watt presented the Sports Achievers of the Month for August to Banbridge Hockey Clubs' European Championships Bronze Medalists Matthew Bell and Eugene Magee �Edward Byrne Photography INBL1540-222EB

Even though they won’t be taking to the pitch themselves this weekend, it could scarcely be a more important one for Banbridge’s growing band of international hockey players.

They will find out if their Ireland side will be on the plane to Rio next year as their chances of Olympic qualification will be confirmed either way.

Eugene Magee, Drew Carlisle and Stephen Dowds were part of the Ireland squad that almost did enough to secure a place in Rio in World League Three while Matthew Bell and Owen Magee would also be hopeful of a place in the final squad.

Add to that teenage midfield star Johnny McKee, who made his Ireland debut in the 2-2 draw with Argentina on Saturday, and there is a lot riding on this weekend for local players.

Their hopes rest with world number ones Australia, who will, in all likelihood, face New Zealand’s Black Sticks in the final of the Oceania Cup on Sunday (pass-back 4am BST) and Ireland need an Australian win to ensure qualification.

“We’re all going to be together as a squad because we’re training on Saturday and then we’re going to be staying overnight at the Europa,” said Eugene Magee.

“We’ll all watch the match together and I think BBC are even coming in to video our reaction to it all.

“I’m trying not to think about it too much because we have done all we can. I don’t want to really build my hopes up now and then be let down but I’m hopeful that Ausralia can do it. If they bring their A game, they will win.

“The only thing is it’s New Zealnd’s last chance to reach the Olympics as well so they’ll really be going for it.

“It will be good to know either way, to be honest.”